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Pacific Battle Ends After 81 Days

June 22 marks the anniversary of the end World War II's battle for Okinawa in 1945. In 1995, 50 years later, CBS News returned with a group of veterans to Sugarloaf Hill, the site of the campaigns fiercest combat.

AP
It was one of the bloodiest fights in the costly campaign for control of Okinawa Island. The Japanese, anticipating that an invasion of their main islands was next, were ferocious defenders. In all, more than 200,000 died here, including 12,000 Americans.

Okinawa veteran Kendall Majors says the images are burned in his mind. He remembers the days of advancing and retreating and all the carnage.

"I looked back across here and I could walk on our dead from that tank all the way to the base of this hill and never touch the ground," Majors says while standing on the battlefield.

Each of the veterans has his own stories, his own reasons for returning to Okinawa. But there is a common sense of unfinished business, an uneasiness about having survived when so many others did not.

Paul Ison recalls 50 years ago, as he dodged enemy fire in an Okinawan field known as Death Valley. A photographer happened to be there, producing one of the most inspiring images of the battle. As a photographer snapped his picture, Ison remembered thinking that he would never live to see it.

Today, survivors from both sides, find, if not an explanation for what happened, at least a renewed purpose.

"It's been 50 years since that living hell," a former commander for the Japanese says, speaking in Japanese. "Now we've come together with the souls of the fallen to show the way for peace."

By CBS.com Associate Producer Joshua Platt and Coordinating Producer Andre Rodriguez

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